The son of a German-born scientist, whose untimely passing was ruled a suicide, spent his entire inheritance to prove that his father killed his mother, despite the previously determined cause of death.
Pelle Wall, of Salt Lake City, Utah, refused to believe that his mother, scientist Uta von Schwedler, took her own life after being found dead in a bathtub. Von Schwedler died in 2011, four years after divorcing Pelle's father, John Brickman Wall. She was, at the time of her death, making significant progress in leukemia research and simultaneously attempting to gain custody of her children after they’d been sent to live with their father.
Tensions were high between the ex-spouses during the difficult custody battle.
Von Schwedler’s boyfriend, Nils Abramson, arrived at her home for a visit on Sep. 27, 2011, just as the case was being reviewed and things were looking good for the 49-year-old mother.
When Abramson entered the home, he discovered her submerged under the water in a bathtub. There was initially no sign of foul play, and the father told his grieving children that their mother took her own life.
A coroner ruled the cause of death to be drowning, though it was undetermined. Knife wounds on her body and high levels of Xanax in her system were never explained, and Pelle soon began to suspect his father of murder.
“I was asleep,” he told authorities repeatedly, claiming that he was nowhere near her home. Things quickly turned suspicious when the father began breaking down in tears to his children about possibly murdering their mother.
“He was kind of babbling and rambling,” Pelle said. "But he was saying things along the lines of, 'Am I a monster?' and 'What if I did it and I can’t remember?' I think he also said, 'I want my mom or I want my mommy,' at one point.”
Suspecting his father of the unspeakable crime, Pelle began to take steps to protect his siblings and prove that John was guilty. He used inheritance money left by his mother to file a wrongful death suit against his father, meaning that he would be subject to questioning under oath.
During questioning, John’s story began to change. He admitted to seeing his ex-wife on the day that she died, and was subsequently arrested and charged with murder. The trial began in February of this year, and Pelle’s father pleaded not guilty.
Defense attempted to argue that the knife wounds were self-inflicted and that she drowned after mixing the Xanax with alcohol, but their efforts proved unsuccessful. John was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
“We have spent the last three and a half years seeking justice for my mother, and today that quest is finally at an end,” Pelle, now 21, said.